Daytime TV: All change, please

Mutability is our tragedy: Gary Day on the impact of a new name, a new identity or a new pair of breasts

August 12, 2010

The six-part series Identity reached its denouement (ITV, Monday 9 August, 9pm) but nothing was finally resolved. For we were in the territory not of the detective story, but of the thriller, where evil lingers long after the villain has met his end.

The basic premise of Ed Whitmore's dark drama was that identity is not inalienable. Someone else can easily become me or you. American Elaine Parent used various tricks to obtain the birth certificates and passport numbers of countless people. When one came close to exposing her, she murdered her and flew to England where she evaded capture for years before shooting herself. We are not safe from others or, indeed, from ourselves.

DI John Bloom (Aidan Gillen) had been undercover so long he had forgotten who he really was: a policeman or Brendan Shay, member of a Turkish gang led by his girlfriend's father, Nazar Kemal (Tamer Hassan)? Perhaps that's why he kept checking his reflection in shop windows. But his confusion must have been nothing compared with that of DSI Martha Lawson, alias Keeley Hawes.

One minute she was Zoe Reynolds in Spooks, and the next she was Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, a woman transported back to the 1980s to find the criminal mastermind responsible for the mullet haircut. And now, with barely time to catch her breath, she finds herself in charge, of all things, of a police unit dedicated to fighting identity fraud. It must all be very bewildering.

And if matters weren't complicated enough, she is also in love with DI Bloom. Love, she tells him, is "letting someone be themselves". Only later does it become the right to dictate what your beloved should wear. "That outfit doesn't suit you," says Adile (Agni Scott), the woman in Bloom's other life. It's a remark that makes him think that perhaps they should not go away together after all. But will he return to the unit, especially now that DS Anthony Wareing (Shaun Parkes), a man who takes such exaggerated pride in playing by the rules that he thoroughly deserves his surname, has discovered that DI Bloom has "gone native"?

Since he can't spot a transit van trailing him as he walks along the street, I would say the unit could probably manage without DI Bloom. There's also the little problem of Adile. In the very last scene she intuits that Brendan, as he is known to her, is contemplating a relationship with another woman. "Tell her I don't give up without a fight," she says. Coming from someone whose father and brother consider mutilation of rivals as being all in a day's work, I would say that painful times lie ahead for DSI Lawson, should there be a sequel, as seems likely.

And now for a commercial break. A talking bulldog called Churchill says we can save money if we insure with him. I've got a better idea. Why not seize the creature, exhibit him as a natural phenomenon, and make a fortune? No need to worry about the premiums on your car then. Honestly, the families in these adverts haven't a clue.

The Hospital (Channel 4, Monday 9 August, 9pm) was another programme concerned with identity, or at least appearance. "People ring up wanting to know if they can have cosmetic surgery on their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, breasts, stomachs, penises, bums - everything," says a weary receptionist.

A management consultant, who is chair of a Primary Care Trust, asked why we always have to change things. Not, I bet, a philosophy he promotes in the workplace. This seeker after efficiency, who probably has enough money never to need the NHS, proved unsympathetic to Sarah's request for breast implants after rapid weight loss turned them into empty flaps.

Her surgeon was livid. "This is not a cosmetic procedure," he fumed. "Once again, they ignore expert opinion." The Trust in question has a policy of not meeting applicants in person. It's a sensible one. That way, members of the committee don't have to see the devastation they cause. It was Sarah's birthday when she heard the news.

A sign in Jade's bedroom said "Porn Star Parking". She showed the camera a copy of Nuts magazine. "Look at that. She's got big tits and is on every single page."

Jade wants big tits. "There's no one in the world who wants a boob job more than me. Other girls say they want a boob job just as much, but when I ask them if they'd eat a spider to get one, they say they wouldn't. But I would, which shows I want it more than they do." And they say ideology is dead.

Jade seemed to think her desire for a boob job was justification for having one. Every doctor she saw disagreed. Something else unresolved.

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